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Massachusetts reports high case numbers as state nears 20,000 COVID-19 deaths

A gloved hand holds a rapid test vial containing a testing swab.
Robin Lubbock
A gloved hand holds a rapid test vial containing a testing swab.

Coming off one of the state's largest one-day total of confirmed COVID-19 cases, Massachusetts is closing in on a grim milestone of 20,000 deaths from the pandemic that began 21 months ago.

The state Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported 7,817 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in its daily dashboard update, with the state's seven-day positivity rate rising above 7% and settling at 7.02. By comparison, the positivity rate last winter peaked above 8% for several days in December and January. It appears to be the largest one-day case total since the current spike began.

State officials reported 33 new confirmed deaths and three new probable deaths, bringing total reported deaths from the pandemic to 19,963. The average age of patients who died from COVID-19 is 75 years old.

By month's end, the state may also report more than 1 million confirmed infections throughout the pandemic — the total rests at 960,973 ahead of Thursday's report, which should be released at around 5 p.m.

With Christmas in two days, people are scrambling to obtain tests before gathering with friends and family, but the supply of tests available appears to be short of what's needed in many areas of Massachusetts.

Officials continue to urge people to obtain vaccinations and booster shots as the best defense against severe illness. More than 5 million residents have been vaccinated, but hospitals are struggling with rising COVID-19 patient counts and Gov. Charlie Baker says the "vast majority" of those patients are unvaccinated.

The number of fully vaccinated people — two doses of Moderna or Pfizer or one dose of J&J — rose by 6,320 to 5,054,170 in Wednesday's report, compared to Tuesday. The state reported 39,814 new booster doses were administered Wednesday, compared to Tuesday, with total booster shots in arms to date rising to 1,892,828.

"There are going to be a lot more cases because omicron is very contagious, but people need to understand that the vaccines and the number of people in Massachusetts that have gone out and gotten vaccinated and gotten boosted — their risk is extremely low," Gov. Charlie Baker said on Wednesday.

There are 1,621 patients currently hospitalized in Massachusetts for COVID-19. Of those, 353 patients are in intensive care units and 206 patients are intubated.

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